Developing an Effective Website

Man at iPad

A website is typically a nonprofit’s number one form of communicating with large audiences. An organization can choose to include as much or as little information about itself as needed. In general, a website functions to share its story to its funders, volunteers, supporters and the community served. It can help to decrease the number of calls to the main office by answering basic questions about the organization and can also help to cut printing costs.

Steps to Developing a Website

  1. Register a domain name. The domain should be related to the organization’s name or the work that the organization performs. Nonprofits should also consider creating a fairly short domain name which is easier to fit on business cards, in emails and in print publications. The domain should be simple and easy for the intended audience to remember. Registering a domain name is fairly inexpensive, so some organizations also choose to register other domains that are spelled similarly to the organizations actual domain. This can allow the organization to create a link to the intended website.
  2. Evaluate the nonprofit’s needs involving the website. Nonprofits should decide what the scope of the website will be to determine the type of site. The organization should also decide what internal resources and funding they have to build and maintain the website, and plan to fundraise accordingly.
  3. Determine the website’s platform. Nonprofits should decide if they want to use a blog software for the website, a site that is created and maintained with DreamWeaver or other CSS software, or a customized content management system.
  4. Based on the type of software, choose a vendor. Nonprofits should solicit proposals from companies or individuals or utilize expertise from current staff members, volunteers or other stakeholders.
  5. Work with a website developer to create the website. This will involve creating or updating content for the site, designing the site map, wireframes for layout and graphics for the site, loading content and testing the site before launch.
  6. Launch the new website. Nonprofits can choose to kick off the new website in several ways, including via press releases, announcing the new site at events, postcards, social media and word-of-mouth.

While each nonprofit’s website serves a difference purpose and connects with a difference audience, there are several trends in effective website development that can be used by nonprofits. First, the organization’s name and logo should be featured on the homepage and continue to appear on all other pages within the website. Most often, the most effective websites are intuitive.

Navigation throughout the site should be easy for the user, with descriptive navigation tabs and obvious placement on the page. As a general rule of thumb, the user should not need to click more than four times to get to their desired content. This involves effective navigation, descriptive titles and an organized site map. It also involves using keywords in the main content and articles on the website, so that it can be found in search engines and placed near the top in searches.

When designing the layout for the website, designers often refer to the “F” map. This describes the pattern the eye follows when reading a website. First, the eye scans across the top of the site, then the left side column, followed by the middle of the site from top to bottom, forming the letter “F”. This pattern is often considered when deciding where the navigation, main content and side content will be located on the page.

Websites typically put the most important information, such as the navigation, in the most viewed section of the page, along the top of the site and the left column. Content is typically located in the middle of the page, and most sites put secondary information or related material in the least viewed parts of the site, such as the right column and at the bottom.